Movie theater operators did not mince words in asserting that Disney left money on the table by putting Marvel’s Black Widow on Disney+ on the same day as its theatrical debut.
Disney announced in March that Black Widow, among several of its 2021 films, would premiere simultaneously on the studio’s subscription-based streaming service — for a premium $30 price — and on the big screen while the struggling movie theater industry regained its footing. On July 9, Black Widow opened to $80 million in the U.S. and Canada, setting a COVID-era box office record. Disney padded the film’s final weekend tally by reporting the Scarlett Johansson-led comic book adventure collected an additional $60 million worldwide on Disney+. That pushed its global haul past $200 million.
After last weekend’s pandemic record-setting $80 million opening haul, Black Widow dropped 67.5% in its second week, another Marvel record for worst collapse. Over the course of its second weekend in theaters, Black Widow collected just $26 million at the domestic office. The drop was so severe, the National Association of Theatre Owners, the industry’s main lobbying arm, released a fiery statement that takes aim at Black Widow’s rollout. For measure, NATO seemed to like Black Widow, calling it “such a well-made, well-received, highly anticipated movie.”
Without the Disney+ release, NATO predicted that Black Widow would have secured a much larger opening weekend, somewhere north of $92 to $100 million. And while the film soared past the opening weekends of recent releases like A Quiet Place 2 and F9, its ticket sales quickly dropped off. In its sophomore outing, Black Widow collected $26 million, a huge 69% decline. Or, as NATO put it, a “stunning second weekend collapse in theatrical revenues.”
Scott Mendelson at Forbes thought it was premature of NATO to scold Disney:
Disney is currently pledging to go “theaters only” with Shang-Chi, Free Guy and the rest of their 2021 slate (Encanto, Eternals, West Side Story, etc.). Warner Bros. pledging a 45-day window at least for the tentpoles in 2022 and beyond. Studios may see this as a “desperate measures in desperate times” gambit. However, NATO prematurely going on the offensive threatens to make Disney and Warner Bros.’ already-planned recommitment to theatrical exclusivity retroactively look like capitulation.
Others on social media thought NATO’s assessment was already obvious.
The National Association of Theater Owners are pretty pissed off at Disney and Black Widow. NATO claims Disney's same day release on streaming has cost the movie and theaters boatloads of cash due to the increase in piracy. Gee, who ever could have seen that coming.
— Weaponized Nerd Rage (@WeaponizedRage) July 19, 2021
According to the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), #BlackWidow had a 69% drop-off in ticket sales during its second week, and this is likely due to it premiering on Disney+ at the same time.
Due to password-sharing, streaming revenue is not even close to box office. pic.twitter.com/1NgHTFqUm6
— Possum Reviews (@ReviewsPossum) July 19, 2021
It’s about time NATO Stepped up to the plate. In my humble opinion it took too long. Maybe next time they should tune into @HCAcritics #trending in #hollywood Movie Theater Owners Claim Disney Lost Money on Marvel's 'Black Widow' – Variety https://t.co/PzkRuEfwnm
— Demetri Panos (@demetripanos) July 18, 2021
When reached for a response by Variety, Disney declined to comment. Odds are they could care less.